In this challenging economic environment, faced with flat or even decliningrevenues, law firms have scrambled to control their own costs, the lion's share of whichare personnel costs. In addition to reducing the size of incoming associate classes (in afew publicized cases even canceling employment offers to law students), firmsterminated lawyers at all levels, de-equitized partners, and trimmed support staff.Moreover, firms have been forced to adopt more cost-effective ways of handling certainmatters. Low-level, repetitive work is frequently delegated to lawyers who have lower billing rates than even junior associates: (a) staff attorneys (i.e., non-partner-track lawyerswithin the firm), (b) lawyers in firm subsidiaries (or captives) formed to perform this typeof legal work at a lower cost, or (c) contract lawyers who work for independentcompanies in the U.S. or even outside the U.S. And one traditional bulwark of law firmhours, document review, is undergoing a sea change because of increasinglysophisticated technology for electronic data analysis.
Also, continuing a trend we have noted in previous Survey Reports, the structureof law firms has grown more complex. The typical AmLaw 200 firm is now a two-tier partnership with many different categories of lawyer in a leveraged structure: 151 equity partners (barely 15% women), 91 non-equity partners (26% women), 54 counsel (35%women), 188 associates (46% women), and 11 staff attorneys (70% women). As the preceding numbers clearly show, women constitute a smaller percentage of each categoryas you move up the career ladder. In other words, over the course of time women exit lawfirms disproportionately more than their male peers. Moreover, it is troubling to note thatthe percentages of women equity partners and women associates in the typical firm havedeclined slightly during the past two years.